These 20 powerful LGBTQ+ memoirs will open your eyes & mind

lgbtq+ memoir
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Whether written by a queer celebrity, a LGBTQ+ historical figure, or an activist, LGBTQ+ memoirs can teach us so much. They’re one of the best ways to find out what life was really like in a historical period or just under certain unique circumstances.

Most people will never be celebrities nor have something newsworthy happen to them, so an LGBTQ+ memoir is the best way to experience those situations vicariously. Even more, LGBTQ+ memoirs can also give readers ideas about how to improve their own lives and community activism.

1. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (2020)

lgbtq+ memoirs all boys aren't blue george m. johnson

Credited as a “memoir-manifesto”, George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue is a coming-of-age story about the author growing up as a queer Black person.

Johnson said they were inspired to write the book by a saying from Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

The book is one of the most banned, due to sexually explicit scenes.

2. Archive Activism: Memoir of a “Uniquely Nasty” Journey by Charles Francis (2023)

archive activism lgbtq+ memoirs

Charles Francis is the co-founder of the modern Mattachine Society in Washington DC, a massive archive of LGBTQ+ historical documents.

His memoir Archive Activism is not just about his life as a public relations consultant for the Republican party, trying to get the party on board with gay rights, but also the importance of record-keeping in activism.

3. Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill (2015)

rethinking normal lgbtq+ memoirs

Rethinking Normal is a memoir by a 19-year-old who realized she was transgender at a very young age, and went through gender reassignment as a teen.

The memoir was at the center of a political controversy in 2023, when the city commissioners of St. Marys, Kansas wanted to close the town’s public library because it made a copy of it available to others.

4. Inverse Cowgirl by Alicia Roth Weigel (2023)

The cover of
The cover of “Inverse Cowgirl” HarperCollins
Inverse Cowgirl is a memoir by activist and Austin, Texas’ Human Rights Commissioner Alicia Roth Weigel about being born intersex. She uses her tattoos as a framing device to talk about how she put an end to feeling dissociated from her body.

5. Call Me Anne by Anne Heche (2023)

call me anne lgbtq+ memoirs anne heche

The actress Anne Heche’s second memoir, Call Me Anne, was published only months after her death. It picks up where her first memoir, 2001’s Call Me Crazyleft off, detailing her relationship with comedian Ellen DeGeneres, as well as her award-winning roles in the 1997 dramatic films Wag the Dog and Donnie Brasco.

6. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (2019)

gender queer lgbtq+ memoirs

Gender Queer is a graphic novel memoir about Maia Kobabe growing up and realizing that they are non-binary and asexual.

The book launched with a small printing, but after winning an Alex Award from the American Library Association, it grew more and more popular.

Unfortunately, it has also been the most-challenged book by right-wing scolds for three years running.

7. Yours Cruelly, Elvira by Cassandra Peterson (2021)

yours cruelly elvira cassandra peterson lgbtq+ memoirs

Not adoring Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira, is a red flag. And now, we have all the more reason to love her, as she detailed the story of the love of her life, Teresa “T” Wierson.

Yours Cruelly, Elvira also talks about how drag inspired the creation of Elvira, and how she grew up in the LGBTQ+ community.

8. How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (2019)

how we fight for our lives saeed jones lgbtq+ memoirs

Poet Saeed Jones’ memoir How We Fight For Our Lives, is about his childhood in the American South as a gay Black youth. The book won the Kirkus Prize, the Stonewall Book Award, and many other honors.

9. Pageboy by Elliot Page (2023)

pageboy elliot page lgbtq+ memoirs

Actor Elliot Page transitioned in the public eye, and his memoir Pageboy doesn’t pull any punches. Page talks about his estranged father, an encounter with a homophobic A-lister, and his relationship with fellow actor Kate Mara.

10. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (2019)

in the dream house carmen maria machado lgbtq+ memoirs

Carmen Maria Machado’s In The Dream House is a harrowing memoir of domestic abuse and a toxic relationship. The memoir uses a unique framing device, where each chapter is its own genre of storytelling.

11. Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant by Curtis Chin (2023)

everything i learned i learned in a chinese restaurant lgbtq+ memoirs
Little, Brown
Curtis Chin grew up in a Detroit Chinese restaurant during the ’70s and ’80s when Detroit was on its downswing. Chin was gay, but kept it hidden as a kid — even trying to be like the Young Republican Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties. Chin’s memoir, Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant, offers an intimate peek inside Chin’s world.

12. In the Form of a Question by Amy Schneider (2023)

The cover of Amy Schneider's new memoir,

Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider‘s memoir is not just about winning $1.6 million on the popular game show. Instead, In the Form of a Question: The Joys and Rewards of a Curious Life is a paean to trans joy. (In fact, she told LGBTQ Nation that there is not much about Jeopardy! in the book at all.)

13. The Best Strangers in the World by Ari Shapiro (2023)

All Things Considered co-host Ari Shapiro‘s memoir is all about stories. Though unlike in his NPR work, the stories in The Best Strangers in the World aren’t journalistic profiles of other people’s lives this time, but his own.

He writes about being the only gay kid at his high school, his time with the band Pink Martini, and co-creating a cabaret show with Alan Cumming.

14. Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello (2017)

The Hero Dies Spoiler Alert LGBTQ+ memoirs

TV journalist Michael Ausiello’s memoir is about his relationship with photographer Kit Cowan, who died of cancer in 2015 after they’d been together for 13 years.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies was adapted into a 2022 film, directed by The State‘s Michael Showalter and starring Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge as the couple.

15. Nobody Needs to Know by Pidgeon Pagonis (2023)

The cover of

Intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis was raised as a girl, but were told that they wouldn’t develop the same way as other girls, because they’d had cancer as a young child.

In addition to writing the memoir Nobody Needs to Know, they’ve also led campaigns to stop surgical intervention on intersex babies.

16. Perfectly Clear by Michelle LeClair and Robin Gaby Fisher (2018)

perfectly clear lgbtq+ memoirs

Michelle LeClair says she used to be the “poster girl” for Scientology, the controversial religion founded by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard. However, when she came out as a lesbian, she says the church turned on her. (The Church of Scientology denies LeClair’s claims and says it is not anti-LGBTQ+.) LeClair’s compelling memoir Perfectly Clear invites readers to discover what it was like on the inside.

17. The Woman I Was Not Born to Be by Aleshia Brevard (2001)

Aleshia Brevard's memoirs

LGBTQ+ activist and icon Aleshia Brevard wrote her memoir The Woman I was Not Born to Be in 2001, detailing her transition and her youth in Tennessee. She transitioned in 1962 when being trans was seen as a strange curiosity. She took a few roles in Hollywood, including one in the underrated Don Knotts satire of the Playboy lifestyle, The Love God?

18. It’s Only a Movie by Bruce Joel Rubin (2024)

it's only a movie lgbtq+ memoirs

Oscar-winning screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin — who wrote Ghost, Jacob’s Ladder, and The Time Traveler’s Wife — came out as gay in his new memoir, It’s Only a Movie. He’s been married to his wife, Blanche, for nearly 50 years, but he says she’s always known.

19. Stranger Among Friends by David Mixner (1996)

stranger among friends lgbtq+ memoirs

Activist and political consultant David Mixner wrote Stranger Among Friends in 1996. It details his work in the 1960s with the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign and the Civil Rights Movement.

He’s also one of the people who helped Harvey Milk land his seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Mixner came out in 1976, and co-founded the United States’ first LGBTQ political action committee. Even in death, he’s still supporting queer youth.

20. Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist by Cecilia Gentili (2022)

faltas lgbtq+ memoirs

Activist, actress, and author Cecilia Gentili was an amazing force for trans rights and trans visibility. She passed away earlier this year and was paid tribute on the floor of the House. Her memoir, Faltas, talks about her life growing up in 1970s Argentina before she came to the United States.

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